Is It Necessary, Or Is It Shock Value?

Tragedy dimmed the excitement of this year’s Olympic Games. A young luger from Georgia, Nodar Kumaritashvil, died during a practice run merely hours before the opening ceremony.

Though I didn’t see it myself, the video of his death was shown on air, not once, but several times! I wonder, is that something that we really “need” to see? Sure, curiosity is human. Having an understanding of the sequence of events helps us to understand the “why’s?” and “what for’s?” of what happened. Logical explanation makes it more acceptable. Airing the accident several times, in slow motion, is another thing entirely. I don’t like to speculate, but did the station run the footage for “news,” or for “ratings?” (Guess my jaded side is coming out.)

Okay, so we see horrible things on a daily basis. Car crashes, war zones, murder victims, house fires, natural disasters, etc, etc, etc. When does the barrage of mayhem go too far? I don’t want to get on a rant here, so I’m gonna step off the soapbox and bring the discussion down a notch to a less conflictual (I hope) context.

I’ll admit it. I’m not an Olympics junkie. As such, my focus has remained on writing, despite the hullabaloo. Within that line of thought, news of the pseudo-sensationalistic broadcast filtered through my “writer’s mind” and landed on the question:

When writing violent sequences, how much is too much?

I understand genre matters. Um, can I say I’m a big Clive Barker fan? He doesn’t hold any punches. But I expect graphic detail in his work. It’s horror, for goodness sake! Anywho…

The goal of a writer is to make a scene smell, taste, and sound authentic. We want the reader to connect with the characters on an intimate level. Feeling the character’s pain means careful attention to detail is needed. But when does detail turn macabre? In which situations does violence come off as a bid for shock value?

These musings lead me to wonder:

What do you do when crafting an action-packed, racy, violent, horror-laden, risque scene? How much detail is too much detail? In what instances do you step back and let the reader’s imagination fill in the blanks? Or, is everything game? The gorier the better? Nothing is sacred?

I’m so curious to hear what you’ve got to say!

Go to fullsize image


6 comments on “Is It Necessary, Or Is It Shock Value?

  1. ilovebeeswarzone says:

    hi do not stop writing because your good sorry to loose that olympian he could have become avery needed human being thank’s for having me

  2. I suspect I hold back too much in my writing. I don’t want to read about the pain and gore – in fact, if a novel has *too* much, I stop reading, and don’t buy that author again. Some genres require it, I don’t dispute that, but I’m at a point in my life where I choose to avoid as much misery as I can. Listening to the news on the radio (I don’t own a TV) is bad enough.

    • lbdiamond says:

      Good point, Deb. Personal taste does play an important role. I read books to get away from reality, but if what I’m reading mimics “real life” too much, it’s not much of an escape, is it?

  3. r.voza says:

    i think it’s okay to show it because it’s news. however, if you’re going to show it, you MUST give people warning so they can turn away.

  4. lbdiamond says:

    Yup, the newscaster did give a warning. That’s an excellent point.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s